Process: Respira Black

Respira Black Construction

Respira is a contemporary blackletter inspired by Spanish and English models from the 15th and 16th centuries. From its release on Earth Day, 2017, ALL proceeds from the sale of this typeface have been donated to the NRDC.

Respira is inspired by a particular style of Spanish blackletter often found in illuminated manuscripts of Andalusia. We first came across this unique style in the breathtaking Santa Iglesia Catedral Metropolitana de la Encarnación in Granada, Spain. For designer Lucas Sharp, it was love at first sight.

New York Times Logo (Left), Respira (Right)

While blackletter was originally used for text settings, from the 11th century through much of the 16th and 17th, it’s modern use is almost exclusively for display, leading the current models to be much more decorative than their original text versions. This miniscule was like nothing we had ever seen – the more complex letters were strikingly beautiful, constructed ingeniously and inventively with skillful calligraphic strokes, but the foundational vertical strokes were simple and plain. While other blackletter in use today commonly employs a complex system of serifs and flourishes with varied hairlines and endstrokes, this miniscule contained none of that noise.

Its vertical stems were simple and austere, containing only a modest implication of serifs. This tension between simplicity and complexity present in the word shape is magnified by the tight spacing afforded by the subtlety of the serifs.

(From Left to Right) Granadan Manuscript, Sevillan Manuscript, Zaragozan Manuscript, Respira Black

The design of Respira is also influenced by the physical deterioration of the ancient manuscripts. Due to poor lighting conditions behind the alter of the Catedral de la Encarnación, we were unaware that some of the more stylized forms like the “a” and the “k” were not actually “stenciled”, but were so high contrast and old that the hairlines had gradually faded from view. We discovered the existence of the hairlines when we came across the style in the 16th century Spanish master Juan de Ycíar’s Arte Subtilissima (1553, Zaragoza) - and later noticed a super fine and faded hairline when we were lucky enough to come across an original manuscript page for our own library while antiquing in Sevilla.

Antique manuscript from Sevilla
Antique manuscript Cardinales
Antique manuscript Cardinales

100% of Respira profits donated to the NRDC, since day one

The NRDC is a non-profit organization that fights for environmental preservation and policy change to help save the planet and everything living on it.

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